Can you guess what's missing? (Heathkit H8)

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Bill Loguidice's picture

Filed strictly under "fun" rather than a true contest, I was wondering if anyone can figure out the one (1) thing missing from this highly collectible Heathkit H8 computer system. The fact that the top cover is missing does not count, since I removed it so the inside of the system could be seen. In actuality, this unit is self-contained and ready to function as intended save for one key item. First correct answer to describe that key item gets a round of applause from all AA'rs and admiration from your fellow geeks everywhere!

You can view the images here. I highly recommend that after you click on an individual photo in the set that you go to "All Sizes" and pick "Original Size" to get the maximum detail.

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Mark Vergeer
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the H-17 floppy disk system

Bill, I think it is the H-17 floppy disk system.... there is nothing attached to the blue ribbon on your photo's....
Didn't you write about this earlier?



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Bill Loguidice
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Not yet
Mark Vergeer wrote:

Bill, I think it is the H-17 floppy disk system.... there is nothing attached to the blue ribbon on your photo's....
Didn't you write about this earlier?

I don't think I wrote about it in any detail, but anything is possible. Hopefully I didn't write about the answer.

And no, you didn't get it right yet. The H-17 floppy disk system, more specifically the floppy disk interface, is not a necessary component of the system to function. It works just fine without it, though it's nice to have, particularly with an SVD. The blue ribbon is attached to a card that is marked in the photo when you look at it full size.

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
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cdoty
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I think I know
Bill Loguidice wrote:

Filed strictly under "fun" rather than a true contest, I was wondering if anyone can figure out the one (1) thing missing from this highly collectible Heathkit H8 computer system. The fact that the top cover is missing does not count, since I removed it so the inside of the system could be seen. In actuality, this unit is self-contained and ready to function as intended save for one key item. First correct answer to describe that key item gets a round of applause from all AA'rs and admiration from your fellow geeks everywhere!

Dust? The computer is amazingly clean. And, everyone knows that a computer can't run without a thick layer of dust.

Actually, I don't see any sort of ROM or BIOS chip...

Bill Loguidice
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So close...
cdoty wrote:

Dust? The computer is amazingly clean. And, everyone knows that a computer can't run without a thick layer of dust.

Actually, I don't see any sort of ROM or BIOS chip...

Not quite, but you're getting warmer. It really is in remarkable condition, but sadly the power supply appears to be shot. That combined with the mystery missing item stops me from doing anything with it at this time...

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
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Matt Barton
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My Guess

I'm going to guess it's the CPU Card. I believe that's supposed to be in the second slot.

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Bill Loguidice
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Congrats to Matt!
Matt Barton wrote:

I'm going to guess it's the CPU Card. I believe that's supposed to be in the second slot.

Exactly! A fact that the seller failed to notice... :-( Of course until the thing has a working power supply, a CPU is the least of my worries... Congrats, Matt.

It's funny, as we're almost conditioned to think that the card behind the front panel is the CPU/main board, but in fact that's just the front panel interface card, controlling the LED display and keypad interface...

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
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Matt Barton
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The system

It actually looks like quite an intelligent way to build a system. What could be easier than swapping those cards in and out? Or is this the system that requires you to solder everything?

I just wish modern PCs were easier to deal with. It's still a pain even putting in memory sometimes, what with all the cables and junk in the way. Of course, I remember having problems putting memory into my A3000, too. It came on "static zip" chips or some such, and you had to change some jumpers. Geez.

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Bill Loguidice
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Soldering was essential
Matt Barton wrote:

It actually looks like quite an intelligent way to build a system. What could be easier than swapping those cards in and out? Or is this the system that requires you to solder everything?

I just wish modern PCs were easier to deal with. It's still a pain even putting in memory sometimes, what with all the cables and junk in the way. Of course, I remember having problems putting memory into my A3000, too. It came on "static zip" chips or some such, and you had to change some jumpers. Geez.

The H8 was a kit computer, but yes, once it was built, you just plugged in more boards. Unfortunately, you also built those boards! ;-) It was very much like an S-100-based system like the Altair or IMSAI, but instead of using 100-pin cards it used the proprietary Heathkit size. Same concept though, in that you'd program everything directly via the number pad and display on the simple screen. Of course, with expansion you could hook it up to a terminal (like the H11 that I have) or expand it fully with HDOS/CP/M (of course requiring several more components). While in theory just adding new boards, be it on an S-100-based system or a Heathkit or anything like it, was a great concept (don't like your Intel-based CPU, put in a Motorola, etc.), in actual practice you had to program and configure the board to actually work. It required a LOT of technical expertise. In fact I saw a first-hand demonstration of this at VCF East 7.0 with a SOL system and boy was it intimidating. That's personal computing in just about its rawest and purest though...

Heathkit was nearly 100% build-it-yourself. Only when Zenith acquired them in the late 70's/early 80's did we start to see pre-assembled systems, put under the Zenith brand name. For instance, the Z100, which I have, is known as the H100 in its kit form. Same system, one was just pre-assembled, the other was not. They of course made many different types of electronics and hobby kits and were big in to the early 80's with their popular line of robot kits.

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
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Mike Jacoubowsky (not verified)
Heathkit H8 longevity

Our shop ran an on-line bulletin board on an H8 for quite a few years after it was "obsolete" (it was eventually knocked off a shelf during the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 and that was that... it wasn't that I couldn't get it running again, but rather that private bulletin boards were beginning to wane as first Compuserve and later the Internet took over). The H8 was a workhorse, pretty much bomb-proof and capable of all manner of mods as various manufacturers made boards and upgrade kits for them.

You really couldn't kill an H8 (other than shorting out the main B+ to the chassis, but even that would only fry components easily identified (by their burned smell and the overheated traces on the board) and replaced. --Mike--

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